There’s something exciting about putting small things together to make something grander. I’ve been doing that as a quilter for thirty years. Buy yards of gorgeous fabric, cut it into little pieces, then sew the tiny pieces together to make a work of art that happens to keep you warm or look interesting on the wall.
I’ve made traditional quilts and art quilts—and the process is always surprising. I often think I know what I want the end product to look like, but it’s not predetermined and something is always left to my imagination’s spin cycle. Once I thought I wanted to make a traditional blue and white string quilt; half way through it, a piece of yellow fabric happened to fall on the floor where I was laying out the quilt. The yellow was an absolutely glorious addition; it made the blues bluer and the whites crisper. It pops, and I smile every time I crawl under it. It has had its place of honor in the master bedroom for years.
There was also a piece of kimono fabric that was so precious I couldn’t bear to cut it up. One brave day, who knows why, but I closed my eyes, yielded my rotary cutter, and slashed that fabric into really unusual curvy pieces. I did the same with some additional fabric and merged it all into one swirling, soothing water scene. Before then I had never sewn curves before. Who knew?!
My art quilts are most often created by pulling odds and ends out of my scrap pile. Out of “nothing” comes something… that’s what’s so exciting for me. The juxtaposition of one fabric against another creates a whole that is greater than the sum of the parts. Before I know it, I’ve constructed a cloth door that opens into some kind of magical world. It makes my heart leap up—every single time.
I notice that I do something similar when I’m playing with a poem or piece of writing. Several seemingly random thoughts bounce off of each other. They set off sparks and ignite more ideas, and it grows into something bigger and hopefully something that makes me think beyond the obvious. When reading other authors’ writing, I look at the small details: word choice, punctuation, sentence structure, voice. How does each contribute or fail to contribute in sending a message or creating a work of art.
I don’t “sweat the small stuff”, but I do enjoy it. It takes me to far away places with grand views that I would have otherwise missed.